Complex PTSD is a specific form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It isn’t recognised officially by the American Psychiatric Association, and doesn’t appear in the DSM-V (the official book which psychiatrists and psychologists use to define psychiatric illnesses).
Complex PTSD – Definition
Complex PTSD is different from PTSD as it refers to those victims who have experienced trauma over a long period of time. It also specifically refers to situations of entrapment or captivity, where the victim is unable to escape.
Marta’s diagnosis – complex PTSD
If we believe Marta’s trauma took place, it was long and severe. When researching PTSD while writing How To Be A Good Wife, I came across an article about complex PTSD, and believed it fitted most closely with Marta’s experience.
I also read about it in Judith Hermann’s book Trauma and Recovery which has a specific chapter on ‘Captivity’.
In some cases, the sufferer of complex PTSD experiences complete repression of the traumatic event or other blocks of time within their lives. If we believe Marta is suffering from Complex PTSD, this is one of her symptoms: her experience was so traumatic that she has completely repressed it, and forgotten Hector’s role in it.
It is also common that these memories may reemerge later in life, often as a result of a change or disruption. For Marta, it is the fact that she has stopped taking her medication, exacerbated by Kylan’s engagement and the revelation of Hector’s suspension from his teaching job (and suspected affair).
Attachment Theory and ‘Stockholm Syndrome’
Complex PTSD is also linked to Attachment Theory, more commonly known as Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim develops attachments and sympathy for his or her captor. This is true in Marta’s case as she becomes so reliant on Hector that she is able to only see the good things he has done for her and to suppress that he was her captor at all.
In Natascha Kampusch’s book 3,096 Days, she talks about her aversion to the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, as it suggests something that just happens to the person in the situation, continuing the myth of this person as a victim. She argues that developing a sympathy for the perpetrator is a survival mechanism, and makes the person strong and resilient.
If we believe that Marta is suffering from Complex PTSD, the medication which Hector encourages her to take is one which suppresses her memory and keeps her quiet and subservient. It is a fictional medication, and not based on a real medical prescription.
Read more about Marta’s little pink pills